Amelia Earhart was once engaged to a chemical engineer from Marblehead!
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. She was the firstborn, after whom a sister – Morey – was born three years. Amelia’s family moved several times with Amelia’s upbringing, including moving six times during her four years in high school due to her father’s difficulty holding out jobs due to his alcoholism.
In 1915, her father moved the entire family to Chicago where she attended Hyde Park High School during her final year. She describes her final year as a very unpleasant experience.
In her high school yearbook, under the class photo, the yearbook editor wrote “AE-the brown-haired girl who walks alone.”
She graduated in 1916 and briefly attended Junior College in Pennsylvania, before dropping out.
In the winter of 1917, Amelia visited her sister in Canada and trained as a nurse’s aide, so she could treat wounded soldiers returning home from war during World War I.
By 1919, Amelia Earhart enrolled at Columbia University to study medicine, but dropped out after a year and moved to Los Angeles to be with her parents.
In 1920, at Amelia’s request, her father took her to an airport in Long Beach California where her father arranged for Amelia to take a flying lesson and after that, she realized she wanted to become a pilot.
Three years later, Amelia received her pilot’s license and bought a used Kinner Airster Biplane, which she named the Canary.
Unfortunately, with the bills paid and not making much money as a pilot, she sold the plane and bought a car she called the “Yellow Hazard” was a 1922 Kessel. Nice car with a convertible roof, big nickel headlights, and a tall, low yellow body with black fenders The car was the equivalent of a modern Alfa Romeo. Amelia Earhart dubbed the car the “Yellow Hazard” because her fondness for beauty preempted the risk of unemployment and unpaid bills.
Meet Samuel Chapman of Marblehead
After losing a significant amount of their life savings with a failed investment, Amelia’s parents took a number of Borders to their Los Angeles home to pay the bills.
One frontier was Samuel Chapman of Marblehead. He was born in Marblehead in 1896.
Chapman and Amelia became good friends and later dated. They became engaged in 1924, but Amelia broke off their engagement in 1928 when Chapman did not want Amelia to fly planes after the marriage.
After Amelia’s parents divorced, Amelia and her mother decided to follow her sister Muriel to Massachusetts where she was accepted to college in Boston. The three women rented an apartment in Medford together and stayed there for many years.
Realizing she couldn’t pay the bills with a pilot’s license, Amelia took a job teaching English and citizenship classes to immigrant families at Dennison House in South Boston. The Denison House was a woman-run outpost. It provided a variety of social and educational services to immigrant families. Amelia also earned additional income by working as a sales representative for Kinner Aircraft in the Boston area.
Chapman followed Amelia east and returned to Marblehead. He went to work for Edison Electric in Boston as an industrial heating engineer.
Before moving to California and meeting Amelia Earhart, Chapman served in World War I. He served in the 10th Marine Division. Members of the 10th Marine Division served aboard a number of ships including the USS Nebraska.
Visit Marblehead and Chapman
When Amelia was not working, she would drive to Marblehead and spend time with Chapman and his family. They enjoyed having lunch together and going to the beach. Local kids were always drawn to her bright yellow sports car.
Amelia’s mother and sister made a number of visits to Marblehead to meet the Chapman family. Amelia’s mother fell in love with the town so much that she later rented a summer house on Locust Street.
After the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s plane in 1937, Amelia’s mother and sister escaped the press in Boston by taking refuge in Marblehead, staying in a home on Front Street.
Amelia’s mother died several months after her daughter’s disappearance in 1937. Muriel Earhart Morrissey lived a long life in Medford where she was a public school teacher. Morell died in Medford in 1998 at the age of 98.
Chapman was never married. He moved to Ashland where he died in 1950. He is buried in Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead with his parents and siblings.
- Marblehead Messenger, Friday 5 July 1929
- Marblehead Messenger, Friday March 26, 1937
- Marblehead Messenger, April 1, 1943
- Marblehead Messenger March 30, 1967
- Amelia Earhart: A Biography, by Doris Rich, Smithsonian Institution, 1989
- Marblehead in World War 1: At Home and Away, by Margery Armstrong, History Press, copyright 2011
- East to Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart, by Susan Butler, Da Capo Press, 2009
- The Life of Amelia Earhart: The Voice of the Wings, by Mary Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, 1989
Mark Horowitz is a Marblehead resident and history lover.
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